Tag Archives: Plant

Digging in the Dirt With Gardening Apps – NYTimes.com

All right all my gardening friends who are also nerds…

This is an absolutely glorious article on the NY Times site with links to gardening aps for your phone!!

It was posted by one of my LinkedIn group (Grow Girls Grow Organic) members — Cindy Meredith.  Meredith also has a gardening blog and it is packed with great info on all kinds of gardening so I expect great info but this post and link just made me smile!

Happy Easter to all my gardening friends.

Digging in the Dirt With Gardening Apps – NYTimes.com.

via Digging in the Dirt With Gardening Apps – NYTimes.com.

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Garden Mulch – FAQs from Margaret Roach

Margaret Roach does it again!

And while I am working on my organic gardening manuscript….
I thought I would share links and articles from some of my most favorite organic gardeners.

This article is really an in-depth FAQ on mulch.  What really constitutes mulch?  How much should I use?  When do I mulch?

Got mulch questions?  Ms. Roach has the answers.

garden mulch: how to mulch, and what to use — A Way to Garden.

Grow So Easy Organic: How To Protect Tomatoes from Disease & Bugs

Close up of Blossom end rot tomato dissection

Close up of Blossom end rot tomato dissection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomatoes, like every other living thing, can come down with some maladies that are easily recognized.  The bad new  is that once you know what the disease is,  there is often little that you can do about it.  The good news is that most of the fruit can still be eaten if affected portions are removed.

Here are the most common diseases that can afflict tomatoes.

Blossom end rot
This one is very common problem on organic tomatoes. If a brown, spot about the size of dime appears on the blossom end of the fruit, your tomatoes have it.  Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency coupled with fluctuations in moisture. Remove the affected fruit so other fruits on the plant will develop normally.  And if you’re going through a dry spell, start watering the plants to ensure they get 1 to 2 inches a week.

Cracking
Cracking is another problem that occurs when soil moisture fluctuates. Select varieties that are crack-resistant, and keep them adequately watered at all times. Keep in mind that soil drying followed by watering encourages cracking.

Cloudy spots
If you find irregular, grey or white spots just under the skin, you’re tomatoes have been attacked by stink bugs.  The damage can be done at any stage of the fruit’s development so keep a weather eye out for these bugs and crush them with wild abandon when you find them.

Flower drop
Flower drop is a problem directly related to air temperature.  It usually happens when temperatures fall lower than 55 degrees at night but higher than 95 degrees during the day.  It can also happen when night temperatures remain above 75 degrees. The problem usually disappears and fruits set normally after the weather improves.

Sunscald, poor color
Remember I said not to prune leaves too vigorously?   If you remove too many leaves you risk exposing the fruit to too much sun, raising the temperature of the tomato and causing scald and uneven color. Good foliage cover helps prevent sunscald.

Catfacing
I’ve never had catfacing but I’ve heard of it.  Symptoms are badly formed tomatoes on the blossom end that usually have a rough spot that looks like scar tissue. Cold weather at time of blossom set intensifies the deformities. Catfacing is most common in the large-fruited, beefsteak-type tomatoes.

Bugs That Bug Tomatoes
Here is a list of common insects that can cause damage to tomatoes.  I have only had a few problems with insects.  If your plants are healthy and you are vigilant, you probably won’t have many of these problem bugs chowing down on your tomatoes, either.

  1. Aphids – Small, pear-shaped insects that like the top growth and undersides of leaves. Spray insecticidal soap and remove any weeds in the area which may serve as hosts for aphids.
  2. Cutworms – fat gray, black or brown worms up to 1-1/4 inches long, cutworms chew through stems of plants close to the soil surface.  Use a toilet paper roll to make a collar that you place around transplants or around the base of young plants as you set them in the ground.
  3. Flea beetles – Tiny black beatles about 1/16 inch long that attack young transplants and leave them looking as if they have been shot full of small holes.  Crush them with your fingers but move quickly, these babies are Olympic jumpers!
  4. Hornworms – Large green worms up to 4 inches long that eat foliage and fruit. Handpick the worms if only a few – remember the pliers.  Or buy parasitic wasps and let them lay their eggs on the hornworm.
  5. Spider mites – Tiny tan or red mites that are almost invisible to the naked eye, mites cause small yellow specks and fine webs. Forceful water sprays and insecticidal soaps may be used for control.
  6. Stalk borers – Creamy-white to light purple larvae that eat tunnels in the stem, causing the plant to wither and die. Remove and destroy weeds where the insect may breed. Locate the hole in stem where the borer entered, split stem lengthwise above the hole, and kill the borer. Bind the split stem, and keep the plant well watered. Spray to prevent further infestations.
  7. Stink bugs –On my top ten most hated bugs, these babies can be brown, tan, green or black shield-shaped bugs that give off a foul odor when startled or crushed. They suck juices from the plant and cause hard whitish spots just under the skin of the fruit. They fly, multiply fast and eat anything, so find them and their eggs and crush them.
  8. Tomato fruitworm – this is one I’ve never seen but my Rodale book says it’s green, brown or pink  and it eats holes in fruit and buds. If you look at the base of the fruit stem and find a darkened hole, remove the fruit and cut it open.  You should find tunneling caused by the caterpillar and sometimes caterpillar itself.  Kill the fruitworms before they become moths.  Parasitic wasps like the Trichogramma are natural enemies and will use these worms to host their eggs, too.

Recipes
Got a lot of tomatoes and don’t know what to do with them?  Here are two of my favorites for ripe tomatoes and one for all those green tomatoes you will have at the end of the growing season.  Mangia!

Mucci’s Spicy Barbecue Sauce

INGREDIENTS:
24 large peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes
2 c chopped onion (red)
2 c chopped sweet red peppers
2 chopped hot peppers
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 c cider vinegar
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 T dry mustard
1 T smoked paprika
1 tsp salt (or to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

Put all ingredients in a non-reactive pot and stir to mix together.  NOTE:  For milder bbq sauce, hold off on adding the dry mustard, pepper and paprika until 1 hour before jarring the sauce.

Bring to a boil then cook for 12 to 15 hours at a slow simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Sauce should reduce by half during this time and should have the consistency of thick ketchup when it is ready for jarring or use.  If the sauce is still too thin, just keep cooking it but stir it more often as it will burn as it gets thicker.

JARRING:
Pour hot sauce into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch head space.
Cap and tighten by hand.
Process pints and half pints for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Remove from water bath and set on cooling rack.  Do NOT move until jars are completely cool.
Once cooled down, check tops to make sure they sealed.  Remove rings and wipe off the outside of each jar.
Label and store.

Best Ever Homemade Salsa

INGREDIENTS:
30 tomatoes peeled/chopped
8-10 Italian peppers – chopped
10 c chopped onions
6 large cloves garlic – chopped
3 to 5 banana peppers
¾ c brown sugar
2 c cider vinegar
1 T pickling or sea salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 T cumin
2 to 3 T chili powder
2 – 6 oz cans tomato paste – optional – will help make salsa a little thicker

NOTES:
I do NOT add salt – don’t’ think it needs it – but you can taste and add as needed.  You can spice this up using more hot peppers, hot pepper flakes or a prepared spice mix like Ball’s or Mrs Wages.  I would NOT add the entire bag but taste as you go along.

DIRECTIONS:
Put all the ingredients in a non-reactive (not aluminum) pot.
Bring to a boil then cut the heat down and simmer for 2 hours until the liquid in it is reduced a whole lot.
Jar while very hot and process in water bath for 35 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts.
Makes up to 17 pints.
Remove from water bath and set on cooling rack.  Do NOT move until jars are completely cool.
Once cooled down, check tops to make sure they sealed.  Remove rings and wipe off the outside of each jar.
Label and store.

Green Tomato Relish

INGREDIENTS:
2 lb green tomatoes (2 c chopped)
1 lb chopped red onions
1 lb chopped Italian peppers
½ lb chopped tart apples
6 cloves garlic – chopped
1 c organic cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt (add to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
3 to 4 hot peppers – chopped – optional
2 T chopped cilantro – optional

NOTE:  if veggies and apple are chopped into ¼ inch bits, you should NOT have to process in a blender or food processor before jarring.

DIRECTIONS:

Put all ingredients BUT the cumin, hot peppers and cilantro in a non-reactive pot.
Bring ingredients to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens – 90 minutes.
Add cumin, jalapenos, and cilantro and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes.
Ladle into hot jars leaving ½” headroom.
Process in water bath for 15 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.
Remove from water bath and set on cooling rack.  Do NOT move until jars are completely cool.
Once cooled down, check tops to make sure they sealed.  Remove rings and wipe off the outside of each jar.
Label and store.

This recipe makes about 3 pints.  You can double or triple if you want.

Next week, we move to another garden favorite, cucumbers!  Another “easy-to-raise” vegetable that has its own challenges!

Gallery

Grow So Easy Organic: How To Start, Raise and Grow Tomatoes

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Now the fun begins.  This is the first in a series of posts on how to raise various vegetables, how to feed them, defend them, harvest and use them.  We start with one of my favorites and a vegetable that … Continue reading

Grow So Easy Organic – Knowing What YOU Can Grow

This might seem like putting the cart before the horse….but before you buy seeds and lay out your fantastic garden, you might want to give a bit of thought to what you want to put in the ground.

This isn’t about zone or space, this is about time, money and actually enjoying what you grow instead of doing battle with it.

Plants or Seeds
The most basic question is do you want to put plants in the ground or raise your own plants from seed?  The most basic answer is how much time do you have?

If you’re like me and you’ve been gardening for a while (or you have a friend who is a hard core gardener), you probably do both.  But if you’re new to the gardening game, you may want to start with plants.

Buying plants gives you a chance to see if you really do like this gardening thing before you invest time and a bit of money in raising your own plants from seed.  I tend to do both.  I buy plants from the Amish farmers but I also raise vegetables from seed.

Growing from seed has some advantages, for example, you can plant heirlooms that you just can’t buy anywhere.  And you can condition your seed, by planting and harvesting for a couple of years which makes them even more suited to your soil.

I love growing from seed but there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. It does add a bit of time to your schedule because you have to start them indoors, in February and March (if you live in Zone 6b as I do).
  2. The seeds may not sprout so you would have to buy plants, anyway.
  3. You need a controlled environment – temperature and air movement – when the seeds are sprouting and until they get their second, true set of leaves.
  4. You will have to pay attention to the seeds – keep them moist but don’t drown them.  (Here’s where an osmotic planting system like the one sold by Gardens Alive comes in handy.)

Heirloom or Hybrid
By the way, if you want to save seeds from your plants this coming year and use them in the garden the following year, make sure you don’t buy hybridized seeds.  Why?

The simplest explanation is hybrid seeds are produced through cross-pollination, the mixing of plants of two different types for a specific reason, such as bigger fruit, disease resistance, a different look, etc. But the problem with hybrid seeds is you won’t be able to harvest further seeds from the fruit they produce.

Buy some tomato seeds of a specific variety, grow them and then harvest the fruit. Save the seeds, and you may get the same sort of tomatoes…or you may wind up with a different variety altogether. Or worse still, the seeds may be sterile.

Heirloom seeds, on the other hand, will produce the exact same type of fruit year after year, generation after generation.

Playing With Plants
I’m aces with tomatoes — all heirloom or organic seed — from Grow Italian or Territorial Seeds.  My blueberries yield over 60 quarts every year and my Montmorency cherries are a close second with 50 plus quarts.  Pear trees are just starting to bear fruit and the pluots are eagerly anticipated every summer.

But my fig trees are good one year and not so good the next.  And the peach and apple trees bear really bad fruit – spotty and buggy.  Cantelope grow beautifully in my soil but taste like dirt.  Broccoli Rabe comes up fast and easy but flowers before I can harvest it.

Potatoes love the soil but always fall prey to Colorado Potato Beetles and wire worms.

Knowing what I can’t grow upset me when I was a younger gardener but this old girl understands that knowing what she can’t grow is even more important than knowing what she can.  Why?

I no longer waste time or space on those veggies and fruits that just are not going to produce.  I spend that time honing my skills at growing and harvesting the myriad of foods that like my soil, my weather, my temperatures, wind and rain.

This is where I really experimented and where some of the worst carnage of my early gardening days happened.  But here’s a bit of advice that I got from my mom.

Mom Really Does Know Best
My mother’s garden in Virginia was 5 times the size of mine, literally.  At the age of 82, she was still out there in the early morning mist, hoeing her rows, weeding, watering and talking (yes, talking) to her beans, tomatoes, cabbage and corn.

While visiting one day, after a particularly large potato disaster in my garden – death by Colorado Potato Beetle – I whined that I would never be as good a gardener as she was.  Nothing ever died in her garden.

Mom laughed, leaned on her hoe and said, “Of course things die in my garden: I just turn them under and plant something else.”

Mom had to close my mouth because my jaw dropped about a foot.  It was like an epiphany – Mom killed plants too!  There was hope for me.  And there is hope for you, too.

So let’s dive into what I learned while wiping out whole populations of plants!  Maybe what I share will help decrease the number of “interments” in your fruit and veg plots.

Next week, an organic gardening favorite, tomatoes — how to start them, raise them, feed them, protect them and oh, yes, eat them!

Grow So Easy Organic – Best Gardening Resources Online

The Internet is a wonderful place!

It has made the job of finding information on just about anything a whole lot easier.  But sometimes, the Internet can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are looking for information quickly and if you want a reputable source.

There are more than 20 million sites that talk about organic gardening.  But the odds are that many of those sites aren’t really going to provide information that organic gardeners are looking for.  In fact, a lot of them are just trying to sell you something.

I don’t have a problem with companies trying to sell me something. In fact, I really look forward to the seed and supply catalogues that I get throughout the year.  But I don’t want to read about the latest gadget for growing tomatoes if I’m in the middle of a battle with bugs and I know I’m losing.

I want to get information – fast – and from another gardener that I trust.  So that’s how I chose my favorite gardening web sites.  The sites listed below help me make my garden grow better, arm me for all the little tragedies that come along with life, make me smile,  and warm me on cold winter nights.

I hope you enjoy them.

A Way To Garden
Margaret Roach is truly one of my heroes…not just in the gardening world but in the wider world of surviving.  I met her through her book, The Gardener’s Way.  It was the cover that made me buy it.

Her hands, holding green beans, her nails caked with dirt, the clothing in the background clearly worn for work – all these told me that she was a real gardener.  She was someone who enjoyed digging in the dirt.  I was right.

A Way to Garden was her first salvo in sharing  gardening, expertise that had been refined and honed as the editorial director of Martha Stewart Living.  But it’s when Roach severed ties with Stewart’s empire, moved to upstate New York and started living on the land she bought as a weekend getaway, that she started really digging into dirt and life.

She has written a another book since A Way to Garden – And I Shall Have Some Peace There – about her country life but it’s her blog that I really, truly love.

First of all, the information on her blog is mind-boggling and top-notch.  Secondly, Roach brings in some of the tops gardeners and horticulturists in the country and asks them to share their secrets on everything from raising garlic to pruning berry bushes.

Secondly, Roach’s writing is like music to read – rich, warm, inviting and always, always friendly.  She isn’t trying to prove anything anymore to anyone.  She is really writing from the center of her gardener’s heart and I love getting her newsletter in my inbox!

The Bug Guide 
If you don’t have your own book on bugs and you want to find out what a bug is quickly, check out this site.  A wonderful guide from a reliable source and one that Margaret Roach brought to my attention.

It’s a community website called BugGuide.net – a place where naturalists ranging from amateur to expert share photos of insects, spiders and other bugs and  beasties.

BugGuide.net was started for two purposes – one to expand knowledge about bugs that they say are, “…oft overlooked and oft-maligned.”  But it was also started to help make people more enthusiastic about these critters some of which can be very helpful in the garden.

Roach says Bug Guide, “… has long been a go-to resource for me, but now I’m starting to engage further.”  The site offers a “how to” that makes using the site easier and also tells you how you can participate.

Earth Easy
I know.  This web site sells products…a lot of products.  But, if you look carefully at what they sell, all of their products are geared toward sustainable living and saving the planet.  So I’m interested in what they sell.  And I’m interested in what they are saying.

Earth Easy  is a business that was started by a family that got a chance to try sustainable living, themselves.  Living on a small island, long before sustainable living was a buzzword, Greg Seaman and his family developed techniques, ideas and processes that made their lives rich and full and much less damaging to the planet than a typical family’s lifestyle is.

At Earth Easy, you will find a ton of gardening advice for free.  But what I like even more is the stable of contributing writers that broaden and deepen the information available on this site.

The writers frequently offer tips on how to have a much smaller footprint in our lives.  For example, one of their contributing writers, Geoff DeRuiter, shared his quest to produce just one, small can of trash in a year.

DeRuiter, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Bioenergy and Biocarbon Sequestration did it.  And he offers some solid ideas and information on how all of us could help reduce the waste that streams from our houses to landfills every day.

Earth Easy also sends out one of the better newsletters you can find online.  When their newsletter arrives in my inbox, I take the time to open it, browse through it and read about all the other people and ideas that are out there, in the organic gardening world.

The Garden Rant
So, maybe this isn’t an advice site for gardeners but…it sure has some of the best gardening posts I have read in a long time.  And the writers at Garden Rant aren’t afraid of tackling political problems like Genetically Modified Organisms and “garden police” tearing up back yard gardens because they aren’t up to “code.”

Written by “…4 different gardeners from 4 different corners of the United States,” this blog makes me smile, makes me angry and just plain old makes me come back for more.

The information is spot on, the writing is friendly and easy to read and the topics cover just about everything that an organic gardener and follower of sustainable living could want to know.

The four writers have been raising cane online for 6 years now and they’ve gotten a whole lot of attention from some of the biggest media outlets in the country including the New York Times, The Washington Post and Garden Design Magazine. 

So if you want to laugh and cry and learn about everything that can and does happen to gardeners and in gardening, this is the site for you.

Root Development of Vegetable Plants
Okay, this is a real niche resource.  But this is also what I love about the Internet.  Where else could you find information like this?

Written in 1927 by John E. Weaver and William E. Bruner, two botanists at the University of Nebraska,  Root Development of Vegetable Plants is almost 100 years old but if there is anything you want to know about the roots of any vegetable plant, this is the site to turn to.

I confess I have not read it every page but if I have a question, I gleefully put myself in the hands of Drs. Weaver and Bruner.  And I have learned a whole lot about why my plants do well or do poorly just by understanding the basics of how plants work!

Grow Girls Grow Organic
This Linked In group was started by me about 3 years ago and while it’s small (only 550 or so members), it includes gardeners, growers and friends from around the world.  Less structured and more informal, I welcome anyone who has any interest in gardening from back yard vegetables to rice paddies in Thailand.

Members can post questions, provide answers or just share links to their blogs about their own gardening experiences and backyard lives.  No advertisements are allowed on the blog and I try to police this are carefully – walking the fine line between promotion and providing information on something that might make gardening life easier.

I learned about Foodie Bugle from the Grow Girls Grow Organic members, found Hudson Valley Seed Library and High Mowing Organic Seeds through this group and have picked up quite a few tips on raising some veggies I thought I was already good at.

And I’ve gotten some hearty laughs and made a few friends along the way just from gathering together a group of gardeners from the United States and across the globe.

If you’re already a member of LinkedIn just search for Grow Girls Grow Organic and join in the noise about gardening and living!  Yes, guys are welcome to join too.

Peaceful Valley
Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, aka Grow Organic, is another organic growing business that started small in 1976 and just kept gaining sales and customers.  Peaceful Valley, named after Peaceful Valley Road in Nevada City, California, is now owned by Eric and Patty Boudier.

Visit their site and you’ll find a lot of excellent information on just about every gardening topic you could wish for.  You can read their online advice and you can watch Patty do video segments on everything from pruning fruit trees to planting tomatoes.

One note of caution:  the last time I ordered, Peaceful Valley had very high shipping rates for its products.  So, although I like the information they share, I don’t like paying almost as much to ship seed garlic as it costs to buy garlic.

If you live West of the Mississippi you may find their shipping rates are lower.  But the East coast pays a premium for Peaceful Valley products that we can get from growers like High Mowing Seed and Hudson Valley.

For the last two weeks, I have shared  books and web sites that are my best friends, especially in winter.  On cold, blustery days, when all the leaves are gone and the ground is covered with snow, I spend time gazing rooting around these sites and reading my books.

I plot and plan what I will grow and draw a garden diagram I know I will never follow.  And I spend quiet hours visiting my online friends and re-reading the books by my old friends that have helped me create this sustainable life of mine.

Next week, I’ll begin delving into the plants I will plan for and plant in 2013.

Grow So Easy Organic – Best Gardening Books

Anybody whose gardened for even a year has favorite books and favorite web sites.  As a 30 year, veteran organic gardener, I have my share of favorites, too.

There used to be dozens of books on my garden shelf.  Today, there are only about 10 of them.  What happened to the rest?

I realized that although I had a ton of books to choose from, I always chose the same, select few when I had a question or needed help.  So I decided to do a bit of clearing up.  When the dust settled, there were a lot more books in the back of the car than on my shelf.

I took the rejects to a used book store where all profits are used to support senior citizens and headed home, having done my good deed for the day.  So, on to the survivors, my favorite gardening books…starting with two books I have and treasure.

The Victory Garden
My life in the dirt began when I tripped over one small book one Saturday morning about 35 years ago. Crockett’s Victory Garden.  I guess I can blame Jim Crockett for all of my gardening crimes.

More than 3 decades old, Crockett’s book is still hailed as one of the best for beginning gardeners and it still has pride of place on my gardening book shelf.

Crockett was a gardener’s gardener.  He didn’t need fancy tools or high-end gadgets.  All this man needed was some soil, some seeds, some sun and rain and he had a garden full of the bounty of nature.

And he was always so easy to listen to and learn from.  No rush, no worries, just good, old-fashioned gardening advice, that’s what you got from Crockett every week on your local PBS station.  And that’s what you’ll get if you can find one of these vintage books for your shelf.

Seed Starters Handbook
The idea of seed starting used to terrify me.  I was beset with questions.  What if I saved the seeds incorrectly and none of them sprouted?  What if the seeds I saved changed from the original plant to a Frankenplant…born out of a cross I didn’t know about?  What if I got great plants and little, tiny fruits?

Saving my own seeds and using them in my garden the next year just wasn’t something I wanted to try.  But I did, with the help of a friend I’ve never met —  Nancy Bubel.

Published in 1988, Bubel’s The New Seed Starter’s Handbook taught me how to save seeds of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers and use them the following spring.  Getting started was so easy that today, almost 25 years later,  I raise all my own seeds.

In fact, this past summer every plant in my garden — 5 varieties of tomato, 2 types of pepper, 2 of cucumbers and 2 of eggplant and 2 of zucchini – were all started in my basement along with butternut squash, lettuce, spinach, basil and parsley.

Bubel’s techniques are easy.  No special equipment is needed and success is practically guaranteed.  In fact, seed saving is so…natural…I’m surprised everyone isn’t doing it.

Garden Insects of North America; Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs
If you grow them (vegetables and fruit), they will come.  Bugs you never imagined in your wildest nightmares will show up one afternoon and you won’t have a clue whether they’re good or bad.

WARNING:  Don’t do what I did.  I wiped out a whole generation of monarch butterflies because I thought the caterpillars on my dill and parsley were “bad.”  So, look before crushing.

It’s really important to, “Know thy enemy.”  Garden Insect of North America Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs (Princeton Field Guides)  makes it possible to learn about every kind of bug you never thought you wanted to know existed.  Literally.

The images in this book are so good that I turn the pages with my fingertips and only touch the lower corners.  And the images and descriptions will help you identify what’s chewing its way through your garden and give you a flying chance at handling the critter.

Lasagna Gardening
Patricia Lanza’s book entitled Lasagna Gardening, helped me expand my knowledge and increase the size of my garden 5 fold.  There are nooks and crannies in my backyard that were wasted space before I met her and read her book.

Now, every patch of dirt is real estate to grow in.  The inside line of the fence becomes a foot wide bed where beans can be planted and trailed up the fencing.

What’s really great about Lanza’s technique is there is no expensive equipment, no digging, no ploughing, no tilling.  All you have to do is find the space gather materials like shredded leaves, manure, grass clippings, coffee grounds, newspaper and compost and start layering.

Lanza made it easy to do but what she really gave me was the vision to see where I could plant and the freedom to “dig in” without digging at all.

Grow Fruit Naturally
This is my newest book but it is also a book I reach for frequently.  If you decide to grow fruit, Lee Reich is the guy to have in your hip pocket.  Why Reich?

For one thing, the man knows what he’s talking about.  With a doctorate in Horticulture, Reich taught for a while then moved from academic to author, writing books for the everyday gardener and farmer. All of his experience shows in his new book, Grow Fruit Naturally: A Hands-On Guide to Luscious, Homegrown Fruit.

Reich’s knowledge comes from books but it also comes from experience.  He lives on what he calls his “farmden” so named because it’s “…more than a garden, less than a farm.”   And he really, really knows his stuff.

His latest book, Grow Fruit Naturally, could not have come at a better time for me and my backyard orchard.  I especially love his advice on blueberries.

I started growing blueberries without knowing that they are one of the easiest fruits to raise.  In fact, 6 of my bushes are mini-miracles in themselves.  But that’s a story for a later date which I promise to tell in this eBook.

Let’s just say, I planted 12 blueberry bushes in the corner of my back yard instead of 6 and I’ve been harvesting 60 quarts of blueberries every summer…until the summer of 2012.

Weather had something to do with it – 90 degree days in April and 40 degree nights in May.  But somehow, I knew weather was not the only problem.  I was very lucky because, in 2012, one of the best experts on planting and raising bushes and trees shared the fact that blueberry bushes have to be pruned.  Who knew?

Because of this book, I will be heading out into the blueberries in October to do my first pruning, ever!

The Pruning Book
Also by Lee Reich, The Pruning Book: Completely Revised and Updated. The Pruning Book is one I’ve had on my shelf for 15 years.  I bought mine used and have read it a couple of times.  Like his book on growing fruit, Reich shares tons of photographs and drawings that make it easier to learn how to prune any plant.

Reich also shares pruning basics using a step-by-step approach.  He tells you how to prune ornamentals, vines, fruit trees and even house plants.  And Reich offers a special section on pruning techniques for espalier, topiary, bonsai, and pollarding.

By the way, if you like what you read in these Reich books, check out the others he has on sale.  I loved Weedless Gardening and still use the techniques I read in this book in my garden, today.   This wonderful writer and gardener has published many good books.  The books are easy to read, enjoyable and can teach you so much about how to grow and care for plants, vines, shrubs, bushes and trees!

4 Season Gardening
When you are ready to extend your growing season, I can think of no one more helpful than Eliot Coleman and his book, Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.  Coleman lives in Maine…so if he can grow vegetables year round, the rest of us should be able to do it, standing on our heads!

As it says in the new edition of this book, “It’s hard to achieve anything new in an endeavor as old as gardening, but Eliot Coleman has done it.”

In this book, Coleman shares every bit of his knowledge, his tools, his advice and his finely honed sense of the cycle of life over the course of a year.  He does so because he wants all of us to benefit from what it has taken him, literally a lifetime to learn.

Clearly written, beautifully illustrated and loaded with photographs, this book is a slow, steady path to move from just gardening in the summer to gardening all year round.  I love the fact that you don’t have to dive in and do it all, all at the same time.

Thanks to Coleman, I now use a small cold frame (made from recycled windows and wood) and have some small plastic tunnels for extending my lettuce crop.  I saved old sheer curtains and sheets and use them to provide protection from frost and I am constantly on the lookout for an old green house that I can buy or move and start growing from November to February.

I love this book and this author because of his generosity of spirit.  And I love Coleman because, as much as any other gardening guru and maybe even a little more, he has given me hope that comes from growing living things.  We don’t have to wait for spring.  We can grow despite the howling wind and falling snow.

Spring will come again but we don’t have to wait for it anymore.

Next week, web sites that I visit on a regular basis for help, advice, information and sometimes, just a little sympathy!